Category Archives: News

Cardboard Redux

Written by: Ian Sherwood
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Google gets it. They understand that widespread VR is coming soon and that means headsets – those clunky, awkward, hairstyle-destroying devices that allow us to imagine we are standing on the USS Enterprise or on the Great Wall of China, all while sitting at a Starbucks.

With Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens, headsets are definitely real products. But Google gets that we aren’t all going to shell out $200 or more and strap on bulky headsets just for a taste of VR. They lowered the bar last year by eschewing bulky plastics and high-tech eyewear and introducing Google Cardboard: a simple, folded piece of cardboard plus some plastic lenses and adhesive. This one leap has changed perceptions of what is required to get people trying VR. This year, they’ve lowered the bar all the way to the floor with an even simpler cardboard box that unfolds in three steps (compared to 12 steps for the original). We can even get Cardboard headsets printed with artwork or logos and have them mounted to our favorite baseball cap.

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Source: Dodocase.com

Google gets that a headset is just the gateway to the compelling content that we need, so they also announced Jump: a platform to tether 16 digital cameras in a fixed circular array to take 360-degree image and video captures, plus an image assembler to stitch all 16 images together with edge translation, color correction, and blur removal. Suddenly, we no longer need $100K specialized cameras, we only need 16 GoPro Hero cameras mounted just so, and we need Google’s Jump Assembler to put it all together. But, what we’ll get are YouTube-ready, 3D videos that are tailor-made for viewing with – you guessed it – a Cardboard headset. Expect Jump content to appear on YouTube in July, but the camera arrays won’t be publicly available for several months.

Google further announced that the Cardboard app is now available on iOS (get it here), so the other half can see what all the fun is about, too.

And if that weren’t enough, Google announced Cardboard Expeditions: an in-classroom VR experience to give students a view of a location or experience in a controlled setting where the instructor guides the experience. An Expedition pack will include multiple Cardboard headsets and accompanying phones, and a tablet synchronized to the phones that will allow teachers to control the virtual outings.

Look for the updated YouTube app to support VR content soon, and cardboard headsets to be all over your local Starbucks.

Three Great Ways for Brands to Use the New Twitter Audience Insights Dashboard

Written by: Rita Mogilanski
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Last week, Twitter launched a new, free dashboard that shows demographic information about your Twitter followers. You can see your followers’ interests, household incomes, net worth, occupations, their buying habits, education levels, and even what credit cards they have.

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Having access to these insights is a great way to inform your content strategy. There are three great tricks that can guide creative and messaging, and even inform other areas of your brand’s marketing strategy.

1. Compare your follower demographics to the general Twitter population.

Add a comparison audience, and analyze “All Twitter Users” versus “Your Followers.” You’re able to see what the general Twitter population’s habits or interests are versus your brand’s, which will show you what resonates specifically with your audience. In the image below, this brand’s audience is much more interested in fast food than the average Twitter user, showing the brand that fast food is an area they can own on Twitter.

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2. Look at the followers you are reaching, as well as the followers who are actually engaging with your content.

This is a great way to see the user behavior of an engaged user versus a follower that was not impacted by your brand’s content. For example, one of our brands saw that among engaged users, 90 percent were using iOs, and among the users the brand was reaching, only 32 percent were using iOs. This information shows that the brand should be targeting mobile users, or keeping them in mind when looking for engagement and participation from followers.

3. Use relevant purchase habits to inform business decisions.

The insights dashboard shows followers’ Consumer Buying Styles and Consumer Goods Purchases, which is extremely helpful for targeting both on social and in-store. For example, if your fans over-index in healthy living, it can inform the keywords you use to target them on Twitter, as well as what other brands to partner with and advertise through, or even how to set up an in-store display.

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Overall, the new dashboard is very insightful and can serve different purposes for different brands. Take the time to click around and see if you can learn something helpful about your audience to inform social content strategy, creative, messaging, and targeting.

3 Things to Consider After 72 Hours with the Apple Watch

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Seventy-two hours ago, I was among the 22 percent of lucky customers whose orders were fulfilled for the Apple Watch. Many have asked I summarize my thoughts about what I like, what I think needs work, and what marketers should consider when creating an Apple Watch experience.

What do you like about the Apple Watch?

From Apple’s first announcement last September to receiving it on launch day, I have consumed a significant amount of information about what to expect from Apple’s latest technology. Yet, all of my research did not prepare me for the full experience.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 3.11.47 PM

The watch is beautifully designed and the 42mm face is just the right size. The interface is very smooth and responsive, and I am getting a good feel for which elements add the most value for me and how I want to extend my iPhone experience.

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Setup was incredibly easy and primarily facilitated through the Apple Watch app on my iPhone. After language selection and visually pairing the Apple Watch and iPhone, I dove into setting up my application preferences.

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The key thing to consider if you are looking to invest in an Apple Watch is to understand that it is NOT an iPhone on your wrist, but it is an extension of the iPhone experience. It WILL streamline lightweight tasks such as messages, notifications, and quickly reviewing email.

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I like the flexibility of the interchangeable watch bands; it literally takes seconds to completely change the look of the watch. Third-party band options are already appearing on eBay, and I have ordered a second Apple Watch band myself.

Tom Edwards Apple Watch

What needs work?

Outside of the passcode keypad, there is not a consistent input mechanism beyond voice. Responding to messages either consists of predetermined phrases, emoji, or voice response. This is fine 90 percent of the time, but for those times when it is not convenient to speak your response it will require you to pull out your iPhone. #FirstWorldProblems

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The same goes for making and taking calls on the Apple Watch. Be prepared to look like Dick Tracy when you are speaking into your wrist. Calls are better meant for taking on your actual iPhone.

Dick-Tracy

One surprise was Facebook was noticeably missing from the Apple Watch app store on launch day. You still receive notifications from the app, but there is not a native Facebook Apple Watch experience as of yet.

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One additional missing element is a browser experience. There are third-party apps that provide an abbreviated browsing experience, but there is not an official Apple Watch browser. Siri is voice-based, and any search query that is not tied to an existing app function is handed off to the iPhone.

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I have experienced accelerated battery drain on both my Apple Watch and paired iPhone. Also, Handoffs between the watch and app can be awkward in some third-party apps. Upon initial setup, a number of applications have to be preconfigured via the iPhone prior to working with the paired Apple Watch.

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How can marketers benefit from the Apple Watch?

For brands that have a native app in market, the Apple Watch can provide a way to extend the value of the application if marketers focus on creating utility. From a shopper marketing standpoint, Target’s focus on list creation is a good example of taking a single element of the app experience and using the Apple Watch to drive a specific user behavior.

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Target’s Apple Watch app initial user experience

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Target app example of highlighting item location via Apple Watch

I have used the Starbucks app extensively over the past 48 hours. The “glance” tells me how close I am to a Starbucks location as well as extends their loyalty program, and I can leverage Passbook for quick payment for my morning Americano. I have been impressed by the ease of use and the value the app is bringing me through a simple experience.

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The key areas of focus for marketers are understanding how to leverage both short and long notifications to influence certain behaviors while also leveraging the most relevant data to visualize – via a glance – to sustain ongoing wrist engagement.

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American Airlines is simplifying the boarding experience

By focusing on extending apps through the lens of consumer value and lightweight interaction, marketers can capitalize on staying at the top of mind through a user’s wrist.

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Uber’s Apple Watch experience

 

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Art + Science = Facebook’s Anthology Program

Written by: Tom Edwards
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I recently attended the latest Facebook Openbook event in NYC. The topics included the latest video product updates and the unveiling of the new Anthology initiative.

Openbook

Anthology is a creative brief based program that combines the insights and scale of Facebook with the reach and relevance of large publisher partners.

Anthology

Facebook is providing access to insights rooted in detailed analyses of target audiences to inform publisher creative. Their goal is to combine art and science to inform the creation of highly relevant and shareable content that drives business.

Facebook Anthology Purpose

There are seven initial partners in the program:

1. Vox Media – Millennial-focused media entity targeting sports (SB Nation), tech (The Verge), gaming (Polygon), real estate (Curbed), food (Eater), and retail/shopping (Racked)

Vox Media

2. Vice Media – Millennial-focused media entity that creates over 6,000 pieces of content daily across 10 primary channels covering news, music, tech, food, sports, and fashion, all by young people and for young people

Vice

3. Oh My Disney – Brings the ability to leverage assets and properties of Disney in short-form content that is designed to be shared

Oh My Disney

4. The Onion – Satirical news content creator

The Onion

5. TasteMade – Mobile-centric video network that reaches 25 million people monthly

tastemade

6. Funny or Die – Original and UGC comedy and pop culture content creator

Funny Or Die

7. Electus Digital – Properties include Collegehumor.com, Dorkly (Geek Culture), and Nuevon (Hispanic)

Electus Digital

In the unveiling, each publisher partner had created a mock “anthology” based on Facebook insights and a hypothetical brand/agency creative brief. Each anthology program had its own unique creative slant based on the insights provided by Facebook and the unique perspective of the publisher.

ForD Anthology

In the future, the publishers will produce the content and partner with Facebook to distribute the content through both Facebook’s media network and their own distribution properties.

anthology example

The Anthology program can be beneficial for brands and agencies alike. It is a quick way to collaborate with some of the most relevant millennial-focused publishers, as well as leverage proprietary user data and insights provided by Facebook.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Is Today Mobileggedon? 5 Things to Know About Today’s Google Update

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Today is the day Google is rolling out a major update to its mobile search algorithm. Some are proclaiming this “Mobileggedon,” others the “Mobilepocolypse.”

The reality is that this is a major update that will boost the ranking of mobile-friendly pages. There are five things to know about how this update may impact your brand.

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1) The update only impacts mobile search results. This is a mobile first update and will only impact results from mobile queries.

2) The update does impact all languages. This is a global roll-out. Those that manage pages across locations should take note.

3) The update applies to individual pages vs entire websites. This may not be apparent initially, but makes sense as a whole. Google indexes pages and queries map to intent which extends from the relevance of the content on the page.

4) This is one dimension for how Google will rank a mobile search query. –This update does raise the importance of a mobile-friendly experience, but this is not the only signal being considered.

5) Strong content can overcome… For now. User intent based on the query is still an important factor. If the content on a non-mobile friendly page is considered the most relevant for the query it will still rank high for now.

It is important to take the necessary steps to create an optimal experience not only from a search perspective but also from a user experience standpoint.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

10 Key Takeaways from F8 2015

Written by: Tom Edwards
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I attended the F8 Facebook Developer Conference 2015 last month, and below is a recap of the 10 key takeaways from the annual developer conference that outline the current and future state of plans of one of the world’s largest tech companies.

F8 2015 Top 10

Current State

The primary theme was that Facebook is a “people first” company. Facebook is now positioning its core offerings as a family of applications that are designed to align with how people are naturally using technology to engage and share.

F8 2015 Current State

It was quickly noticeable that each platform now plays a very specific role in the Facebook ecosystem. WhatsApp will continue to be a modest messaging platform, while Instagram will maintain a focus on simplicity and creative expression. Facebook Messenger is quickly being positioned as the primary mechanism for one-on-one communication, and direct connection to businesses and groups continues to be of great importance for 700 million people who want to collaborate around specific topics.

Meanwhile, the core Facebook experience is focused on further extending its video capabilities while setting the foundation for their future — to support more deeply immersive forms of content, such as virtual reality.

Enhanced Messaging

One of the larger announcements from the conference was the expansion of Messenger as a third-party development platform. This is an important move for Facebook, especially since WhatsApp confirmed during the conference that they will not be providing API’s anytime soon on their product road map.

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Third parties can now reach and engage over 600 million active users. With the Messenger Platform it is possible to drive discovery, engagement, and attribution through images, videos, GIFs, and sound clips.

Applications can either be stand-alone apps designed to enhance conversations, or it is possible for a brand application to create a workflow to share content through messenger and deep link into the messenger optimized experience in their native application.

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Facebook also announced the beta launch of businesses on Messenger, which is how Facebook envisions brands and consumers engaging directly through enhanced customer service. They hope that this will add value to the consumer through templates that can showcase product details and enhanced order details.

Embedded Video

Facebook users are viewing over 3 billion videos per day, and Facebook took another step toward challenging Google-owned YouTube for market share by launching a new embedded video capability.

The new feature supports view-count synchronization, full-bleed video, and includes social actions in video such as “like” and “share.” Also important to note is that the desktop version is Flash-based and mobile is HTML5.

F8 2015 Embedded Video

In recent Facebook briefings there have been discussions about Q3 introducing sequential storytelling into the fold. This is one area where the current embedded video option is lacking compared to YouTube. YouTube currently has the ability to create annotations, and now has “cards” to create connections between assets.

Importance of Advocacy

With all of the talk about Facebook and their other brands’ lack of organic reach, it was confirmed that for users, the News Feed is still what determines the content that is served. This confirmed that peer-to-peer sharing remains the most viable option for content-centric brands.

Another central theme was tied to the sharing of content and, with that, the importance of creating relevant and engaging content that inspires consumers to share. It is also important to create content that is tailored for the specific audience and to utilize the ideal application from the Facebook family delivery and discovery.

F8 2015 Importance of Advocacy

While most social brand personification strategies have taken a back seat now on Facebook’s primary platform due to the shift toward reach and frequency, leveraging consumer and employee advocates — as well as groups — are still viable means to distribute a message outside of paid advertising.

State of Plug-Ins

Social plug-ins have been a staple of the Facebook ecosystem for years. The Facebook social plug-ins team outlined their intentions to redefine the experience of many of the standard plug-ins in order to create a richer mobile experience.

The first step will be to relaunch Facebook moderation tools to allow greater flexibility and an optimized experience for moderation that includes bulk actions and custom lists — and is being rewritten from scratch.

F8 2015 State of Plug Ins

The team also outlined they are testing a new form of comment mirroring that aggregates comments from external news articles to the Facebook page, and vice versa. This is a significant point to consider, as this will align different audiences and shift the potential engagement that happens on-page.

Instagram

The Instagram team reiterated their focus on being community-first, and maintained that simplicity matters above all else when it comes to their product roadmap and the overall experience of the application.

The team confirmed that the Instagram News feed is 100 percent deterministic, meaning that the content posted from your followers will appear in your feed. Based on this feedback, the idea of potentially adding features such as a “regram” button is not currently part of the plan, as the goal is to keep the experience as uncomplicated as possible.

F8 2015 Instagram

They reiterated that Instagram is not a distribution platform for brands. “Likes,” “follows,” and comments will not necessarily drive additional visibility within the platform due to the deterministic feed and the lack of any type of “regram” functionality. For brands, the ideal approach is to curate against existing behaviors, and create a relationship with passionate fans that showcases their view of the brand as the core asset in order to fuel your branded experiences.

Omnichannel

In recent years, Facebook has increased their focus on shopper and direct response capabilities. They stated that they view omnichannel as the future of commerce, and that they are positioning their cross-channel approach as the ideal for brands.

Facebook highlighted the size of their network, the persistence of logged-in identity, and their cross-platform approach as to why they should be considered as a holistic omnichannel offering.

F8 2015 Omnichannel

A key point of discussion was tied to cross-screen attribution without proxies. With their SDK and conversion pixel, they stated that they have the ability to capture accurate measurement tied to their real users.

Future State

The most intriguing aspect of F8 was the insight into the future of Facebook strategy as outlined by Mike Schroepfer, CTO, Facebook. In his keynote speech, he discussed the three core areas of focus for the near future: Planetary connectivity, natural interfaces, and immersive experiences.

F8 2015 Future State

In the near future, services that scale and planetary connectivity are key areas of focus for Facebook. One of the key initiatives is tied to the Aquila, their unmanned solar drone. The drone is designed to stay aloft for three months at a time, in order to deliver connectivity for remote regions.

Information overload was also an area of discussion for the future of Facebook. The goal is to build contextual systems that deal with information overload. One approach is the use of artificial intelligence built around the concept of convolutional neural nets that essentially create deeper associations between content elements at a faster rate than a simple algorithm.

The last of the three core pillars of the future state of Facebook is tied to the importance of creating and enabling the consumption of immersive content such as virtual reality. One of the crucial direct points was the fact that 3D spherical videos will be supported in the Facebook News Feed. This is setting up for the immersive virtual reality experiences that are to come.

Parse + IOT

Facebook’s Parse was also a primary area of focus. Facebook acquired Parse in 2013. Since then, they have been working to leverage the platform as a service that offers to provide additional rapid development services to mobile app developers, such as user management, push notifications, and analytics at scale.

F8 2015 Parse + IOT

Now with over 400,000 apps built on Parse, the Facebook team is extending Parse to connect Internet of Things experiences. Facebook wants to make it easier for developers to leverage data from connected devices into their applications.

Many other tech heavyweights are investing in IOT data solutions. Apple, Google, and recently IBM have all been vying to unlock the key to leveraging IOT data.

Facebook’s approach is to connect devices and software that share common elements in order to increase the probability of systems working together. This could then lead to Facebook becoming the data aggregator between devices, software, and data used to create unique experiences across devices.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality played a key role throughout F8 2015. Facebook referenced virtual reality as the next evolution of content experiences.

They showcased different applications from their teleportation stations that showcased what was happening in Menlo Park, as well as their more immersive Crescent Bay demos that showed off the full capability of the Oculus Rift.

F8 2015 Virtual Reality

Facebook also spent a portion of their presentation simply showcasing the physiology associated with virtual reality, and why the timing is now right for progression in the field: The cost of technology to create affordable consumer products is feasible, the experience is compelling, and there is broad industry participation as well as a long-term commitment to advancing the technology.

Facebook did a great job of balancing the short term vs. the future state, while ensuring that they are bringing their developer partners along the way. By shifting toward the family of apps strategy — as well as building toward connected devices and immersive experiences — Facebook is in a position to remain relevant well beyond whatever happens with the core Facebook platform.

 

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360 and check out this post on iMedia Connection.

Amazon Launches ‘Home Services’ To Take the Guesswork Out of Booking Goat Grazing Services

Written by: Rita Mogilanski
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Amazon recently launched Home Services, a portal that allows users to find, schedule, and purchase professional services through Amazon. The services that are currently provided include appliance repair and installation, home cleaning, music lessons, iPhone repair, and so much more (including Goat Grazing).

Why Use Amazon?

Amazon handpicks the service providers to assure quality by performing background checks and verifying insurance and licenses. They remove most of the risk associated with choosing domestic help by suggesting only verified vendors and giving customers standardized, prepackaged prices. Amazon will match prices if customers find a lower price for the service provider elsewhere, and you are only charged after the service is completed.

4.1-1This service will prove helpful for users making purchases that need installation. When shopping for an air conditioner, I was served a link to book a professional to install the appliance. This seamless integration relieves much of the stress around installing major appliances. Consumers already trust Amazon and will be willing to go with the professional services the platform recommends to expedite the process.

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How is it Changing the Industry?

Other similar platforms like Angie’s List and Yelp provide users with trustworthy reviews. Unlike Angie’s List, there is no membership fee for Amazon, and unlike Yelp, you can book directly through the site. Competing platforms may choose to increase the services they provide to be more robust in order to compete with Amazon’s one-stop shop experience.

TaskRabbit, which is a platform that provides services very similar to Amazon Home Services, has partnered with Amazon in such a way that allows Amazon users to hire fully-vetted “Taskers,” or TaskRabbit’s service providers, through Amazon.

Small businesses that rely on the local community may feel the pressure of competition from businesses listed on Amazon. For professional services looking to get their business on the website, they can apply here. Businesses pay Amazon a portion of the profits, and Amazon handles payments and customer complaints and issues, taking some of the stress off the professionals as well as the customers.

If you’re looking to take the risk and guesswork out of booking professional help, Amazon Home Services is a great tool. They are currently making life easier for customers and small business owners in most major US cities. For similar platforms, however, the competition just got real.

Image: Amazon.com

Image: Amazon.com

 

The More You Know: Yik Yak

Written by: Jordan Lee
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If you don’t know about Yik Yak, chances are you are a functioning, stable adult. So, what is Yik Yak exactly? It’s a careful formula that combines Twitter, Reddit, and Whisper into one ticking time bomb.

Users are geofenced into a 1.5-mile radius. They then post whatever is on their minds. Annoying professors? Check. Barista who spelled your name wrong? Check. Deep thoughts about time being a flat circle? Check. Other users in the area can then comment or vote on the post. Users are given a numerical score based on their upvotes or downvotes called their Yakarma  it ultimately lets you know how successful you are in the app. Dying to know what’s happening on the other side of town? You can Peek at that area to view the yaks, but not comment or vote.

Peeking at yaks of my former alma mater lets me know more about what’s going on than the alumni newsletter. The anonymity allows users to speak their minds freely. This is especially entertaining at college sporting events, where the yaks flow generously.

However, there has been some debate around the anonymity causing more harm than good. Several schools have noticed issues with discrimination. However, according to Yik Yak these kinds of posts are in violation of their terms and are subject to removal at any time. Plus, Yik Yak has taken measures to quell bullying on the app.

It should go without saying that if something is starting to get banned at schools, its popularity will only grow. With the addition of the national spotlight the app has received and the kickoff of its Spring Campus Tour, there’s nothing left to do but yak about it.

YikYak

Source: Obviously anonymous Yik Yak user

YouTube Rolling Out “Cards” to Replace Annotations

Written by: Hannah Redmond
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This week, YouTube announced the release of a new product called “Cards,” which will eventually replace annotations on videos. Keeping with the trend of mobile optimization across its products, cards will work across screens, including mobile. Currently, in the annotations category only InVideo Programming annotations work on mobile devices.

Source: YouTube Creators Blog

YouTube says this is a response to feedback from YouTube creators for the need of more flexibility with annotations and the need for them to work on mobile. They said in the YouTube Creators Blog:

You can think of cards like an evolution of annotations. They can inform your viewers about other videos, merch, playlists, websites and more. They look as beautiful as your videos, are available anytime during the video.”

There are 6 types of cards: Merchandise, Fundraising, Video, Playlist, Associated Website, and Fan Funding. You’ll now be able to find the “Cards” tab in your Video Editor to create and edit them at any time.

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As mobile media consumption continues to increase year over year (note the graph below on mobile data traffic), it makes sense for YouTube to extend the benefits and functionality of annotations to mobile devices for content creators.

Similarly, as brands continue to increase the amount of content for the digital space, the consumer’s mobile experience needs to be kept in mind. Marketers need to ask: “How will these cards help my consumer while they are on their mobile device?” There is a difference between “standing out” to a consumer and “disrupting” a consumer’s experience. The trick with these cards will be using them in a unique way to stand out that still adds value to the consumer.

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Source: We Are Social

Visit the Cards Help Center to see more detailed descriptions about, and examples of cards.

Google Algorithm Update will Prioritize Mobile Websites in Search

Written by: Hannah Redmond
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Google recently announced that they will be using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in driving search results to users, beginning this April.

In the announcement, Google’s Webmaster Central Blog stated:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

That means mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive sites will earn better positioning in Google’s mobile search engine results, and sites that are not optimized for mobile will see less mobile, organic traffic.

This all makes sense. More and more people access the web on mobile devices, and it’s Google’s job to return to you what is user-friendly and relevant, or you won’t come back. The problem is, this will impact small local business owners the most, as many don’t have marketing departments or budgets to create responsive web sites, yet many of their customers rely on Google search to find local services. Google does aim to provide many robust resources to help developers prepare and optimize websites. You can even test if a site is mobile ready according to Google.

Google has been recommending responsive web design for years now, but this is the first time they have officially announced that it will have an impact on search as a result.